Fort Worth, Texas,
11:27 AM

Returning to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Virtual Learning

As the fall semester approaches we know how hard it has been for parents and families to decide the mode of learning for their children. Some school districts have opted for a hybrid model in which the school year will start with ALL students in the remote/virtual setting gradually transitioning and providing opportunities in-person instruction.

Whichever decision or situation you choose for your student, the start of this school year will be like no other. I thought I would review a few recommendations the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has made that will help you and your family get ready for the start of the new school year.

 For those in virtual at-home instruction:

  • Talk to your child about how school is going (even if they are home and involved in virtual learning), ask them about their day and about how they are feeling regarding this form of learning. It’s normal for children who are extroverts to struggle with the lack of in-person interaction while natural introverts may be more comfortable in this setting. Regardless of the situation it’s important to find out how they feel and work through the things they are struggling with.
  • If you do identify behavior changes which worry you that your child may be experiencing difficulties reach out to your pediatrician to discuss these. Also find out if school has set up a plan to provide counseling or other support services during periods of virtual learning.
  • Be a role model: Practice self-care. If your job or other responsibilities have you worried about how you will handle supporting your child’s learning during virtual at-home learning time seek out resources to help you find that balance (there are webinars out there currently covering this very topic).
  • Consider the following to get prepared for Virtual or At-home learning:
  • Get organized: Make sure you are aware of any registration deadlines, including submitting preference forms that your school districts may need. These forms will help how staff will need to prepare for when they will be offering in-person learning as well as ongoing virtual learning options.
  • Review your families schedule and identify times for learning or instruction if your school has not provided a schedule for the student. Also don’t forget to schedule “recess” times in which the child can spend doing activities outside. Make sure to include breaks, waking/bedtimes, and unstructured “free time.”
  • Attempt to schedule family oriented physical activity as your schedule allows (such as walks in the evening, water activities outside)
  • A family calendar if you don’t use one yet may help keep everyone organized especially if you are keeping track of multiple assignments and deadlines for more than one child.
  • Find a space in your home that is free of distractions and noise and designate this area as the area for learning. Avoid choosing rooms or areas that have easy access to toys or distractions such as TVs. Make sure the area is well lit and has access to electrical outlets for access to charging devices if necessary.
  • Identify activities that will allow your child to remain socially engaged with peers or family virtually and if in person ensure you know the proper precautions that should still be taken.
  • Stay informed: The information coming from school districts is immense. Make sure you are reading any communications that your school is putting out. Consider attending any virtual meetings which are discussing the preparations the school has made for the start of school year. Keep up with the constant changes that occur as new guidelines are made for school districts to consider.

Consider the following and ask questions regarding the following to ensure you are well prepared:

  • Will your student be expected to be logged in at certain times of the day for live video instruction? Will the access to recorded lessons?
  • How will attendance be taken each day?
  • Will the school offer any sort of physical activity opportunities? If not remember it’s important to come up with your own to include in your kid’s daily routine.
  • If your student participates in the school’s meal program, does your school plan to make meals available while students are learning online, if so how will you be able to access these?
  • If your child has an IEP (Individual Education Program) or 504 Plan or receives other support services (PT,OT, Speech) from your school, how will your school provide these during the virtual at-home learning period?
  • If you anticipate any technological barriers (we all experience these at some point), does your school offer support such as allowing students to borrow a laptop? Will they help with internet connectivity if this is an issue? Make sure you know how to access the school’s IT department for questions or issues.

Remember there has already been a lot of stress with handling the many unknowns and issues the COVID pandemic has brought, it is important for children and adults to take breaks when necessary, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well and stay socially connected during this time.

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Get to know Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O.

Dr. Soria-Olmos is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Haslet. She was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, so Cook Children's has always had a special place in her heart. She came to know Cook Children's when she was just a kid herself. She went to the medical center a number of times with her active younger brother, who needed care following several mishaps with broken bones. The visits inspired her to decide, "I want to be a Cook Children’s doctor one day."

In pursuit of her dream, Dr. Soria-Olmos attended Texas Christian University (TCU) for a degree in biology and to fulfill the pre-medical school requirements. After graduating from TCU, she chose to stay local and attended medical school at University of North Texas Health Science Center/Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth. She completed part of her pediatric clerkship at Cook Children's, learning about pediatric medicine by attending rounds with pediatric hospitalists. It was then she knew she wanted to be a pediatrician.

She began her career with Cook Children's in 2014 as a pediatric hospitalist caring for sick children admitted to the hospital. Today, she works at Cook Children's primary care office in Haslet. Her special interests include child safety, child development and asthma.

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